While Paul Anderson’s Alien vs Predator may have been a huge disappointment, it did do its job. It gained lots of money and helped revitalize the franchise. After its release more and more merchandise began to be released, including new novels. When I found out that DH Press would be releasing new novels, I found myself being excited. I love the Alien and Predator novels of the past. But what would these new novels be like?
Forever Midnight, the first in DH Press’ line of Predator novels was written by Bram Stoker Award-winning novelist, John Shirley. Forever Midnight tells the tale of a group of UNISC marines who visit the planet to baby-sit the colonists there. What they don’t know is that Predators have been using Midnight as a hunting ground since the early nineteenth century. We watch as the UNISC commander, Ness, and his crew – what’s left of it anyway – crash onto Midnight and have to navigate their way through the immerse jungles that cover the planet.
We read on as Ness, along with the soldiers, fight their way through the jungle, heading towards the colony while the colonists there have to deal with the Predators. That’s Forever Midnight in a nutshell. Forever Midnight is set over two thousand years into the future in 2117, in a galaxy where humans have spread out into the depths of space. The Predators are known in this future, but only ship captains are told about them. Two brief chapters flash by, setting the scene and letting us know the main characters before we’re thrown straight into the action.
We are forced to learn about the characters as things go along. The novel mainly revolves around Ness’ desire to find his estranged wife and son who reside in the colony. I found the characters to be diverse and very well written. The mother/son dynamic was well written and kept steady throughout the novel. In some ways it felt like the family dynamic from Aliens. There was one thing that seemed odd regarding the characters and that was the son, Derry. He was supposed to be an eleven year old boy, but spoke like an adult. While this might be down to children of the future being much smarter, Mr Shirley even mentioned in his forewords about adapting aspects of the future so his “modern” readers can connect. Having an eleven year old boy than more common sense and bravery than most of the adult inhabitants of the chav infested Britain isn’t doing that much to connect. But other than that, I found the characters to be a fantastic element of the novel.
Being the first Predator novel in many years, fans have been anxious to get their hands on the novels, fans that have come up with other novels such as Prey. And when I was introduced to DH Press’ version of the Predators, I immediately thought “Oh, no…”. The Yautja culture has been redone – they’re now called the Hish – and this has to be the riskiest move they could have done. The rigid fans of the Predators as they are represented in the previous Alien vs Predator novel line won’t enjoy Forever Midnight for that one particular aspect. However, most readers will enjoy this aspect of the novel. The Hish are very similar in many ways but there are aspects of the Hish POV parts of the novel that could be annoying. The user of flattery by the lower Predator gets annoying really quickly, something with the main Predator character also doesn’t like.
On a whole, I liked the re-imagination. But I’ve always been one who loves to know how things could have been – I’m a big fan of the Bill McCay Stargate novels – but I can guarantee not everyone will like this. I’ve already seen the novel being slammed by such “predophiles” just for this one change.
You can really tell this novel was written by an award-winning novelist. It’s a fantastically written novel, but sadly you can tell it’s John Shirley’s first dip into science fiction. My biggest moan regarding Forever Midnight is how much Mr Shirley describes the alien environment. He tends to overemphasize just how alien Midnight is by described some random animal or plant that doesn’t contribute to the story. At points, when the descriptions go on for several paragraphs, it drew me out of the novel and my mind started to wonder. I found this very distracting and was by far the worse thing in this novel.
Another risky move on the part of both Mr Shirley and DH Press was throwing away the typical style of Predator comic or novel. Consider Forever Jungle the Aliens to Predator’s Alien. Due to advancements in technology, the Predators are killed with more ease than in previous outings with the Predator. While it makes sense, it may appear to the fans as if the Predators are being degraded in their hunting abilities.
Overall I thought it was a fantastic novel. I found it to be a real page turned and I couldn’t help but read on. Most fans will really enjoy this novel and should buy it! But I’d recommend you stay away from Forever Midnight if you’re a big fan of the Yautja version of the Predators.